Leaders like Anton Andrew will be why Pennsylvania flips blue again

There are a few different paths that Democrats can take to win back the White House, but all of them require turning Pennsylvania blue. And to do that, Democrats need to continue what local leaders like Anton Andrew began in 2018: Reviving a moribund state party and energizing voters, turning long-time Republican strongholds into swing districts and Democratic victories up and down the ballot.

Democrats need just nine seats to take back the State House and pass laws like marijuana legalization and start funding schools again. Winning those districts will also translate into a Joe Biden victory, so the stakes couldn’t be higher.

The change is coming from the bottom up. In Andrew’s legislative district, in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Democrats hadn’t even run a candidate throughout most of the last decade, with just two half-hearted campaigns between 2008 and 2016. In the wake of the Republicans’ sweep through Pennsylvania, Andrew, a former public defender and the chair of environmental and educational non-profits in the area, decided that he had to take action.

As a first-time candidate, he tapped his deep community ties and won the Democratic primary, then took on the long-time Republican incumbent. The state party refused to help, reasoning that he wouldn’t come close to winning. But Andrew was used to being told he couldn’t do something and using it to fuel his passion instead of snuffing it out.

He was born in the United States, where his parents were students at Howard University, but spent the first ten years of his life in Jamaica and Trinidad. Then they moved to Long Island, hoping to get Anton and his siblings a better education. On his first day at his new school, his teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. When Andrew answered “a lawyer or politician,” the class erupted into laughter — teacher included.

Donate to Pennsylvania Democrats!

“It never occurred to me that [being black] was something like a permanent handicap, but one of my friends clued me in at lunchtime. He asked me, ‘Do you know of any black lawyers? Do you know of any black politicians?’” Andrew recalls. “I remember at that moment thinking, well, we’re going to change that.”


Fast forward several decades and Andrew was an accomplished lawyer and educator running a grassroots campaign out in the suburbs. He knocked on thousands of doors himself, determined to turn the political tide. Even without the Democratic Party’s help, Andrew came within just 800 votes (or 2.5%) of upsetting the GOP representative in 2018 of District 160, a shockingly close result.

Now, Andrew is running again to finish the job. He’s such a formidable candidate, in fact, that the Republican he nearly unseated decided to just up and retire, leaving Andrew with an even better shot of winning the seat. That he won the Democratic nomination again by over 20 points after a slim victory in 2018 is a very good start. An endorsement from President Barack Obama and a nice fundraising total thus far only help.

The day I spoke to Andrew, he was getting ready to go speak with the local police union, hoping to receive their endorsement. At first, I was surprised to hear that, considering both his party affiliation and everything I knew about his politics and past. But as he explained to me, he’s a coalition builder with enough credibility to reach out to seemingly opposite sides.

Andrew spent years as a public defender in Miami, a career he pursued after seeing some of his Black and brown friends at Penn arrested by cops for no obvious reason and unable to pay for their own private defense. When he moved with his wife and young children to Pennsylvania, where they had no paid public defender positions, he did it in a volunteer capacity as he worked for Cheyney University, the oldest HBCU. Where Andrew lives in Pennsylvania, police had joined in with protestors during the Black Lives Matter marches, leaving him hopeful that change is possible.

“I absolutely think we need to reform the police,” he says. “We need to re-fund social agencies — as a public defender working in Miami, coming up with those alternatives to incarceration, I was really lucky to have a team of social workers, educators, and health professionals to help. Those groups barely exist within the criminal justice system anymore.”

Along with police reform, Andrew is passionate about the environment — he’s on the board of trustees at his local chapter of the Nature Conservancy — and is, like any responsible citizen, very concerned with how the state recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Legalizing and taxing marijuana, as Gov. Tom Wolf proposed, is near the top of his list, as is closing the loophole that allows many of the state’s businesses to incorporate in neighboring Delaware and avoid taxes. Education is key, as well — Andrew also works at an educational resource center.

The goal is to ensure that no Black child gets laughed at when they say they want to be a lawyer, but instead, they get every opportunity to make that dream come true.

“This might be the moment where me being a black candidate in an all-white district, I can lean into that, and I have been leaning into that,” Andrew says. “And the polling is showing that the residents of the district are buying into it. I’m very happy about having the opportunity to be completely authentic, and have that be to my advantage.”

Donate to Pennsylvania Democrats!

Inside Alex Morse’s Final Push to Topple Wall Street’s Favorite Democrat

What a difference two weeks make.

Alex Morse’s primary campaign for Congress in Massachusetts was gaining serious momentum, with his progressive bonafides and policy priorities providing an undeniable contrast to the long-unchallenged, remarkably corrupt Rep. Richard Neal (MA-1). By early August, it was alarming enough to entrenched interests that Neal’s allies began playing dirty.

On August 7th, a letter from the College Democrats at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst that contained vague, anonymous accusations about the 31-year-old Holyoke mayor’s dating life was published in the Daily Collegian, the student-run newspaper. To outside observers, it seemed like a potential bombshell, dropped out of the blue.

Morse and his team, though, were as ready as they could be without any sort of smoking gun to hide.

“They had been shopping a story around for a couple of months, so we had some indication that something was up,” Morse told Progressives Everywhere this week. “But there was nothing specific and we didn’t know exactly what was going on.”

Almost immediately after the initial letter was published, the truth began to emerge. Long story short, it turns out that it was a total hit job — and a sloppy one at that. Reporting shows that the allegations were manufactured by students looking to gain favor with 16-term incumbent Rep. Neal, and the state party actively helped and encouraged it.

“It was designed to be as vague as possible, but also as salacious as possible,” Morse says. “They knew exactly what they were doing three weeks before the primary election.”

Neal has denied any involvement, but reporting suggests otherwise. Facing one of the first serious challenges in his 32-year congressional career, the powerful chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and top recipient of corporate cash in Congress is pulling out all the stops. He just received another $100,000 from the right-wing group that funneled cash to Eliot Engel before he fell to Jamaal Bowman in June. That Neal helped block investigations of President Trump until they were largely facile makes him popular with big donors, though not so much with constituents.

The primary takes place on September 1st, giving Morse a week to close what is now just a five-point gap on Neal. The stakes are extremely high — Morse, the progressive young mayor who supports Medicare for All and a Green New Deal, could be the latest challenger to unseat a long-serving, centrist incumbent and strike a major blow to the party’s status quo. We reconnected this week so he could tell Progressives Everywhere members about the state of the campaign and how he plans on winning it all.

It’s been a crazy few weeks — how are you?

We’re in a much better place today than we were a week and a half ago, when things were pretty intense. It seems like things are really turning a corner and we have a lot of momentum right now. We’re having our best fundraising period of the entire campaign. We had a poll out on Monday that had us within five points. We had a really great debate on Monday night and have another one tomorrow night [Ed note: read the recap here] and a lot of local endorsements from local elected officials keep rolling in.

I think the events of the last week and a half, the political attack has really backfired in the district and people are getting more and more inspired to come off the sidelines and get involved in the campaign.

I’ve noticed more donations coming in through my newsletter and ActBlue page.

Last Wednesday alone we raised $130,000 in one day. Our previous high day was $27,000. I think in that one day alone, something like 3900 people donated. It helps close the gap between the congressman and I, given all the corporate money that he has. There are more people paying attention now than ever before. We’re taking advantage of that attention, people are taking a closer look at the race and our differences.

Click Here to donate to Alex Morse’s campaign!

Continue reading “Inside Alex Morse’s Final Push to Topple Wall Street’s Favorite Democrat”

Arizona Could Flip for the First Time Since 1966

There are few states as politically charged right now as Arizona, which has been a hotbed of progressive organizing since teacher protests rocked the state back in 2018. Now, due to the incompetence of Trump acolyte Governor Doug Ducey, Arizona is one of the worst COVID-19 hotspots in the country, adding life-or-death stakes to what was already going to be a bruising election year.

While Ducey isn’t up for re-election, the state’s voters have a lot of decisions to make: Arizona will vote for a US Senate seat (things are looking good for Democrat Mark Kelly) as well as on a number of major ballot initiatives that could bring very significant changes to what was once known as solid-red territory. One of the initiatives would legalize recreational marijuana; another would make some big reforms to the state’s archaic criminal justice system.

The legislative elections there are huge, too. After making some big gains in 2018, Democrats need to win just three seats to flip the State Senate and two seats to flip the State House of Representatives. Democratic wins here would be historic — the GOP has controlled the State House every term since 1966, while the State Senate has been in Republican hands for all but eight years since that time.

If Democrats can sweep through Arizona, the path to the White House will be much, much easier for Vice President Joe Biden — forget Texas and Florida, if he can win Arizona and North Carolina, he’ll have the presidency. That makes these races absolutely essential to support.

Below the map, I’m diving into the most hotly contested (and most flippable seats) in the state legislature. One note: Unlike most states, Arizona has one set of legislative districts for both State House and State Senate. Each district elects two State House Representatives and one State Senator.

Donate to Democrats in Arizona!

District 28 

  • State Senate election decided by .3% in 2018 — 167 votes: In 2018, Arizona teachers joined the national #RedforEd national movement, walking out of their underfunded classrooms for over a week to demand that the state drastically increase education investment. Leading the way was Christine Marsh, the 2016 Arizona Teacher of the Year, who earned something of a national spotlight with her fierce advocacy on behalf of students and teachers.

    Marsh ran for the State Senate that year, too, and came within just 167 votes of unseating Republican Kate Brophy McGee. Now, Marsh is running again to finish the job, while Brophy McGee deals with a bunch of Pizzagate-type conspiracy theorists over on the GOP side.

District 6

  • State Senate election decided by 1.8% in 2018: We’ve got a really fantastic contrast in this race that makes it even more flippable than the already enticing 2018 vote differential suggests. Democrats are running Felicia French, an Afghanistan War vet and nurse, while Republicans have nominated Wendy Rogers, a perennial right-wing fringe candidate who ousted the incumbent in this district last week. Rogers is one of those child sex trafficking-obsessed conspiracy theorists who is making life miserable for Brophy McGee.
  • State House election decided by .3% in 2018: This is another pickup opportunity that’s even better than the 2018 vote differential suggests. Democrats are running well-known Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans. The state’s coronavirus calamity will play heavily into this race, as Evans has taken a leading role in criticizing Gov. Doug Ducey’s terrible job dealing with COVID-19.

    Democrats only ran one candidate in the primary, which means that Republicans are guaranteed to win at least one of the two seats in the general election. That’s the case in every single election I’m highlighting, which is sort of a bummer. I suppose it makes sense to concentrate resources in some districts, but it feels like a real missed opportunity in this district, where the GOP is a total mess.

    One of the incumbent Republicans is retiring, while the other, Walter Blackman, is a far-right conspiracy-peddler who called Black Lives Matter a “terrorist organization.” The fact that he’s Black certainly complicates the politics of it, but he barely won in 2018 and seems even more vulnerable now.

Donate to Democrats in Arizona!

District 17

  • State Senate election decided by 1.8% in 2018: In a state where immigration and education are both massive issues, Democrats nominated Ajlan Kurdoglu, a first-generation American whose wife is a public school teacher. He’s running against JD Mesnard, the former Arizona Speaker of the House.

District 20

  • State Senate election decided by 3.9% in 2018: This is a rematch between the 2018 candidates. Democrats are again running Douglas Ervin against Paul Boyer, who is only in his first term. Ervin has long been a school volunteer and is focused on education and making the state’s finances more equitable.
  • State House election decided by 1.4% in 2018: Democrats have a great candidate in Judy Schwiebert, who spent 27 years as a teacher and is very focused on education funding. In the primary, she received 2500 more votes than either Republican incumbent, one of whom is a real anti-LGBTQ bigot and weirdo who talks a bit too much about porn.

District 23

  • State House election decided by 3% in 2018: The Democratic Party returns its 2018 nominee, Eric Kurland, who is — get this — a teacher! He got over 8,000 more votes in the primary than the second-place Republican thanks to a heated race between the QAnon-loving incumbent, Jay Lawrence, and the more moderate candidate who ultimately unseated him.

District 21

  • State House election decided by 5.2% in 2018: Here’s another race where the Democrat in the primary earned more votes (3,000 this time) than the top Republican. Name recognition in this case certainly helped nominee Kathy Knecht, a long-time school board official who ran for State Senate in 2018 as an independent. Now, she’s officially on Team Blue — what else do you expect from someone involved in public schools?

District 15

  • State House election decided by 6.1% in 2018: We’ve got another Democratic educator in the house! Kristin Dybvig-Pawelko actually works in higher education, having spent the last 20 years at Arizona State University. As such, she’s very concerned with the cost of public college in the state, which is mandated to be as low as possible. Dybvig-Pawelko had a nice showing primary, taking 5,500 more votes than the second and third place Republicans.

District 8

  • State House election decided by 7.2% in 2018: This should be a super-tight race, far closer than the 2018 margin leads you to believe. Democrats nominated Sharon Girard, a retired physician’s assistant who got more than 4,500 votes than the top Republican vote-getter and 6,000 more votes than the closely paired second and third GOP candidates. The top GOP vote-getter, the incumbent David Cook, is perhaps the most endangered — the guy loves lobbyists and bribing fellow political officials.

Donate to Democrats in Arizona!

North Carolina is the most flippable state in the country. Here are the best targets for Democrats.

Democrats need to win just five seats to flip the State Senate and six seats to do the same in the State House of Representatives

After Democrats flipped swing states like Colorado and Virginia all blue in 2018 and 2019, the biggest target for a wholesale flip in 2020 is North Carolina.

In fact, you could say North Carolina has already flipped blue — its representatives just need to reflect it. Democrats won a majority of votes statewide in 2018, but thanks to one of the most egregious gerrymanders in the country, Republicans were able to keep control of the state legislature and pass horrible anti-LGBTQ laws; only an end to their supermajority, earned in 2018, sustained a veto of a terrible anti-choice bill.

Last fall, the State Supreme Court ordered legislators to redraw the maps to even out the worst parts of the gerrymander, which gives Democrats a strong chance to win back both chambers in Raleigh this year as well as the state’s electoral votes in the presidential election. Democrats need to win just five seats to flip the State Senate and six seats to do the same in the State House of Representatives. Here’s a look at some of the best flip opportunities — hat tip to FlipNC for help with analyzing the redistricting.

If you’re excited about flipping North Carolina’s legislature and its electoral votes, CLICK HERE to donate to the great candidates below!

State Senate District 39: You never want to say an election is in the bag, but this one is about as close as it gets without a candidate running unopposed. This Charlotte-area seat had its lines redrawn in the redistricting, going from a GOP gerrymander to a district that favors Democrats by a whopping 25 points. Even better, Democrats nominated a rising star named DeAndrea Salvador, a 29-year-old who founded her own renewable energy nonprofit and was a TED fellow in 2018.

State Senate District 18: Though not quite as big a slam dunk as District 39, this Wake Forest-area district now leans Democratic by six points. Running for Team Blue is Sarah Crawford, who has made a career out of working for nonprofits focused on education, healthcare, and economic stability.

State Senate District 31: Another Wake Forest-area district, this one shifts from being gerrymandered for Republicans to running about even. In 2018 Terri LeGrand, a lawyer and financial aid administrator at Wake Forest University, came close to beating the district’s very anti-abortion senator anyway, and now she’s got an even better shot. We interviewed LeGrand a few months back — check it out!

State Senate District 1: After keeping a very red State House district within 10 points in 2016, Tess Judge is now running to flip a larger State Senate district that’s much closer to dead even. It’s pretty ridiculously gerrymandered, but it should still be a down-to-the-wire race.

State House District 63: In 2018, this central North Carolina district was decided by less than 300 votes. This time around, Democrats have a decisive advantage thanks to the redistricting tweaks and another great candidate, Ricky Hurtado. A first-generation American, Hurtado has also had a career in non-profits, largely focusing on expanding access to education to working people and immigrants.

State House District 9: The now-defunct gerrymander of this district was so egregious, Democrats are going from getting swamped by 20 points in 2018 to being favored to take the seat. The party’s candidate, Brian Farkas, grew up in the Eastern Carolina area and is just 33-years-old, making him another one of the young stars running this year.

State House District 45: Another district that’s going to see a big swing thanks to gerrymandering being straightened out. GOP Rep. John Szoka won by 17 points in 2018 but now will have to face a fair race against a great candidate: Frances Jackson, a long-time community leader, teacher, and county magistrate.

State House District 59: Similar story in this northwestern Carolina district, which voted Republican by 13 points in 2018 but is now much more competitive. Nicole Quick, an occupational therapist and advocate for children with autism, ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.

State House District 82: Democrat Aimy Steele ran a strong race in 2018 as a first-time candidate, losing by less than six points, and now she’s back to finish the job in this western North Carolina district. She is a former public school principal who is very focused on education policy, a hot-button issue in North Carolina.

State House District 74: Terri LeGrand ran in this district in 2018, while Dan Besse ran in the neighboring 75th House district, where he overperformed recent Democrats and lost by just seven points. The 74th district has been redrawn to be less gerrymandered, and those two factors combined make this a very good flip opportunity.

If you’re excited about flipping North Carolina’s legislature and its electoral votes, CLICK HERE to donate to the great candidates above!

Pennsylvania’s COVID-bomb Republican has an inspiring opponent

On May 27th, Pennsylvania State Rep. Andrew Lewis (HD-105) publicly announced that he had been diagnosed with COVID-19… on May 18th. While Lewis told his GOP colleagues about his illness, the press release was the first time Democrats who serve at the State House were informed that their colleague may have exposed them to the extremely contagious, extremely deadly virus.

That brazen display of deadly selfishness should tell you all you need to know about Lewis, who has spent most of the pandemic fighting to reopen Pennsylvania’s construction sites so that his family’s non-union construction business can resume work. Just about any Democrat would be better than Lewis, who won by just 500 votes in 2018, and his opponent in this November’s election, Brittney Rodas, is far more than just any run-of-the-mill Democrat.

Just 25-years-old, Rodas has a deep understanding of the government’s complex inner-workings. She worked as a policy analyst in the state legislature beginning in college, working with fellow Democrats to meet with constituents and draft new rules and laws that touched the everyday lives of people across the state. What inspired her to run in this very swingy Harrisburg-area district, however, was the death of her father, a former steelworker and Vietnam veteran. With his passing, Rodas experienced first-hand the very real consequences constituents face when the state falls short of its promises.

CLICK HERE to donate to Brittney Rodas’s campaign via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

“My dad died in July last year after he struggled for a lot of his life with health care,” Rodas tells Progressives Everywhere. “And a lot of those struggles were because of his time in the service. He had COPD and all these other underlying issues. So I had been fighting for insurance for him through [government programs]. Ultimately, he made $7 over the Medicaid limit, which meant he couldn’t afford prescription drugs. When he died, I felt like the system had failed him and I had spent all of my time working for this system.”

Continue reading “Pennsylvania’s COVID-bomb Republican has an inspiring opponent”